At the end of May, I spent two glorious weeks with my parents. A younger version of me might have scoffed at such a statement, but as I’ve grown older and built a family of my own, these visits have become more enjoyable and more meaningful.
My mother always quotes my late grandfather when she says: “it all becomes ‘apparent’ when you become ‘a parent.’” She’s right. It really does. In my 42 years, I’ve never gone without seeing my folks for more than a few months at a time. When I left home for college, I never moved back, but we’ve always been able to squeeze in a quarterly visit.
Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, like so many families, especially those who don’t live in the same area, the virus forced us to be apart. This time, it was for 17 long, trying months. Sure, we spoke by phone almost daily, my kids FaceTimed with “Grammy and Papa” several times a week, but it hardly replaced an in-person hug or chat. They say, “separation makes the heart grow fonder,” and there’s truth to that.
During May’s visit, I was conscious to cherish each moment, relishing their presence even more, because I know my time left with them is not unlimited. My parents turned 70 this summer, and although thankfully they’re healthy and vibrant right now, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that nobody is promised tomorrow.
My in-laws are older and sadly not in great health. They moved to California six years ago to help my sister-in-law with her young children, and what was a temporary relocation became somewhat permanent as the pandemic prevented them from returning to Atlanta last Spring. Because of their underlying health issues, they sheltered-in-place since last March and finally made the cross-country trek last month after getting their vaccine.
I’ve watched my wife struggle with her separation from them, helplessly watching from afar as they battle their own health issues. My wife and her sister are now card-carrying members of the “sandwich generation,” simultaneously caring for their own children while ensuring their parents are getting the help they need.
Recently, my father-in-law had a health scare while visiting us, and it resulted in a multi-day hospital stay. The emergency took both of us away from our respective jobs for an afternoon to ensure his well-being. Thankfully, we both work for employers who understood the need for us to tend to personal family issues, but many employees at other companies aren’t so lucky.
Nearly 50% of people in their 40s and 50s fall into the so-called “sandwich generation,” with another 15% providing financial assistance to their parents and their children. It can be a daunting, extremely stressful task. Recently, Homethrive’s VP of Client Development, Arlene Schiff, tackled the topic of “caregivers’ guilt” in adult children and how the services we provide can lift that burden. While watching our parents growing older can be difficult, ensuring they receive the care they need shouldn’t be, and it’s reassuring to know that services, such as those provided by Homethrive, are just a click or a phone call away.
The reunion with my parents was as wonderful as it was fleeting. As they drove off, I spotted a single tear running down my daughter’s face; my son buried his head in a pillow to hide a wave of grief overcoming him. I, too, found my eyes watering a bit. But, this time, I am taking solace in the hope and belief we won’t go another 17 months between visits this time around.